Friday, July 13, 2012

Sorta Lost in Translation

This morning, as we were snuggling in bed, I noticed Kaya singing what sounded like a song under her breath. I didn't dare move, much less make a peep, should she grow frustrated as she often has about my commenting on her singing (I swear, I only ever say nice things!!). As I listened more closely, I noticed she was singing a song about a little duck...and a mama duck...and it "kak-kak-kak"ing. She'd told me a few days ago that, at camp, they'd sung a song about some little ducklings. But her camp is at the community center--in English--and she was singing her little song this morning in German. 

Huh? What?

I continue to listen in and, alas, it is the little duckling song. Granted, until this afternoon, I'd never heard the duckling song in its original, but I was clear--this was that duckling song.

"Singst du das Entchenlied?" [Are you singing the duck song?] I finally asked her, overcoming my fear of the "ehhhhhhhhhh!!!!!" response.
"Ja..." she replied, shyly.

I was really pushing my luck by asking another question, but my curiosity was killing me.
"Hast du das ins Deutsch uebersetzt?" [Did you translate that into German?] I queried, knowing full-well the answer to my question.
"Ja..." she replied, somehow avoiding any sarcasm that would have been well-deserved for such a question.

Dying to capture this footage on film, I dared to ask her my next question:
"Kann ich von dir ein Video machen?" [Can I make a video of you?]
"Ja..." she said, and perked up to be a film star, bedhead and all.

And with that, I busted out my handy smart phone and began to record:

Kaya: Qak, qak, qak, qak, qak...die Enten geheh ueber die Vaterstagen...sie gehen ueber die Vaters tagen...all die Vaterstagen...[kak, kak, kak, kak, kack...the ducks go over the father days...they go over the father days...all the father days...]
Mama: Gibt es mehr von dem Lied? [Is there more to the song?]
Kaya: Was? [What?]
Mama: Gibt es mehr von dem Lied? [Is there more to the song?]
Kaya: Ja, aber...aber es ist in Englisch. [Yeah, but...but it's in English.]
Mama: OK. Willst du das mir singen? Hast du dieses deutsche Lied uebersetzt? [OK. Do you want to sing it for me? Did you translate this song?]
Kaya: Ja. [Yeah
Mama: Und wo hast du dieses Lied gelernt? [And where did you learn this song?]
Kaya: Ehh...Ich weiss nicht. [Uhh...I don't know.]
Mama: War das in dem Kinderlager? [Was it at camp?]
Kaya: Nein, sie haben nicht in Deutsch gesungen.  [No, they didn't sing in German.]
Mama: Ja, stimmt. sie singen auf Englisch, oder. [Yes, that's right. They sing in English, don't they.]
Kaya: Ja. Aber sie, die Kinder..ah..muessen Englisch sprechen, damit sie...die Kinder verstehen. [Yeah. But they...the kids...uh...have to speak English, so that they...can...understand the kids.]
Mama: OK. Uh-huh. Danke, dass du das fuer mich gesungen hast. Danke. [OK. Right. Thanks for singing me that song.]
Kaya: ...drei kleine Enten gehen ueber die Vatertage, all die Vaterstage, die Enten gehen ueber die Vatertage...all...die Vaterstage. Quak...die Mama und Dada die Ententage...qak, qak, qak, an ihre Freunde, qak.  [3 little ducks go over the father days, all the father days, the ducks go over the father days...all...the father days. Quack...the mama and dada the duck days...kak, kak, kack, to their friends.]

Generally, I sing to Kaya in German, as well as read to her and speak to her exclusively in that language. There is one song--Close Your Eyes--that I sing only in English, and will sing songs to her with Geoff in English, at times, too--but for the most part, Kaya knows that, from me, she gets German. And that's her modus operatus with me, too--German. So, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that she translated this song...but I still find myself feeling flabbergasted. I suppose because she wasn't singing it 'for me' perse, but was singing it around me, while I was just lying there with her. Or perhaps that's what I'm missing...maybe she was singing it for me!?  Either way, I'm so impressed with this little makes me very happy, indeed. 

As you'll notice below, it's nothing near a direct translation, but instead, a solid mix of her tendency to make up her own songs, with her her understanding that, from mama, with mama, and around is in German (I know they are supposed to begin to realize at some point--maybe after 4?--that I do speak English and "HEY, that means that you could speak English with me!"...but we're clearly not there yet, fortunately!). 

Let's see if I can remember the lyrics in English...I asked Teacher Emily to sing it for me when I arrived this morning and I ended up getting a sweet little performance from the rest of the class:

(to the tune of "Mama's gonna by you a rocking bird")

5 little ducks went out one day, (show 5 fingers)
over the mountains and far away, (arms go up and down)
mama duck called them 'quack-quack-quack', 
only 4 little ducks came wandering back. 

4 little ducks went out one day...
3 little ducks...
2 little...
Poppa duck called them QUACK-QUACK-QUACK...
5 little ducks came wandering back...!

Thanks for singin' along. As a bi/multilingual, what language do you use to sing to your kids?
What about reading?
Would love to hear any comments you have!


  1. Oh, soooooo cute! I almost picked German to teach my kids, but went for French in the end, this video almost makes me regret it lol! She is just adorable and so comfy talking German, good job.

    1. Thanks for enjoying Kaya along with us! Your comments help remind me that, yes, she is quite comfy speaking German...and that, after so many months and months and months of stressing, that's quite an accomplishment.
      How is the French coming along? From what I understand from your blog, it seems quite natural by now, too, right? Are you happy with their progress and your choice overall?
      Thanks again!

  2. WOW!! I think you have every right to be impressed! I certainly am! Translating the song into German seems like an extraordinary accomplishment to me (even if it isn't direct). Amazing!!! And so sweet :) Music is also such a great way to enhance language learning - such great benefits!
    You know us well enough to guess that I sing, read, and speak to Aleksander in both German and English. I was just writing about how he's started to sing the songs, too. Such fun :) And I'm working on another post to chronicle some recent success! I'm newly inspired and so excited with the progress we're making :D

    1. Thanks, Kate! As always, totally appreciate your input and interest here! I'm super glad to hear of the progress that you're making, and am enjoying reading along with some of it on your blog. Thanks so much for the feedback and helps to keep me writin'!

  3. Tamara, this is so lovely! I am German and raising a 2 year old bilingual German/English child and I am so impressed with what you are doing. Your daughter's German is phantastic, and yours is just perfect. It's so nice to see things going so well bilingual-wise. :-)

    1. Ooooh, how exciting! I'm not only overjoyed and filled with smiles and your lovely comment here, but very curious to find out more about your journey...I've met a handful of Germans in this process, through this blog, and get very excited to hear from them and hear their stories. One of them, as you may have read on the Kaya quotables page, has been super helpful with various phrases, in fact. Your input is very inspiring, I truly appreciate's because of people like you, and the generous comments you all leave, that has inspired me to keep going with this venture for as long as I have, blog and all...THANK you! So, how can I learn more about you and your journey?! Das waere so super!

  4. Danke für die liebe Nachricht, Tamara! :-)
    It would be great to get in touch, is there something like an "official" blog e-mail address, I could write to?
    I have not managed to get my own blog off the ground so far, so we can't connect there yet.
    Habt einen schönen Tag!

    1. Hallo! danke fuer die kurze Nachricht...du kannst mich unter erreichen. Ich freue mich darauf! Tamara

  5. Hallo Tamara, ich habe Deinen Blog ueber Fremdsprachenlehrer in Neuseeland gefunden. Mein Mann und ich sind vor 15 Jahren von Deutschland nach Neuseeland ausgewandert. mit unseren 3 Soehnen (12, 9 und 7) sprechen wir ueberwiegend deutsch, aber trotzdem ist Englisch ihre erste Sprache. Unsere Kinder sprechen aber trotzdem viel deutsch zu Hause und zum Teil auch anderswo, wenn auch mit grammatikalischen Fehlern. Als 2 Muttersprachler waere alles andere als daheim deutsch zu sprechen komisch gewesen, aber ich sehe es bei vielen anderen dass wenn nur ein Elternteil die Sprache spricht das Lernen schwieriger wird, z.B. meine 2 1/2 jaehrige Nichte versteht deutsch aber spricht fast ausschliesslich deutsch.
    Mit Ubersetzungen haben wir auch schon lustige Sachen erlebt, unser Grosser sagt heute noch oft "jeden Weg" wenn er "anyway" denkt, und vor vielen Jahren hat sein Babysitter nie gewusst was er mit "blow flower" = Pusteblume meint :-) Die zwei Juengeren kringeln sich vor Lache wenn ich ihnen den ABC Song auf deutsch vorsinge - jot und ypsilon sind einfach zu lustig fuer sie. Als Musik- und Computerlehrer habe ich meinen 10-12 jaehrigen Schulelern nur Begruessungen und Zahlen beigebracht, aber im Gegensatz zu ihnen haben meine Kinder noch nie ueber "sechs" (wir wissen alle nach was das fuer Elgischsprecher klingt :-)) gelacht!
    Sorry fuer Tippfehler, aber auf dem iPad kann ich nicht zurueckgehen und korrigieren aus irgendeinem Grund - und meine Nichte spricht Englisch aber versteht Deutsch!
    Viel Glueck weiterhin, ich bin sehr beeindruckt von Euerem Bilingual Parenting (manchmal faellt es einfacher das auf Englisch auszuruecken lol)!

  6. Monika, vielen Dank fuer deine ausfuehrliche Kommentar (I'm noticing myself be extra vigilant of my grammatical errors in German...can I blame it on my compute keyboard?!). =) Es freut mich so sehr, von dir zu hoeren! Die Geschichten, die du erzaehlst sind so lieb und lustig...ich habe auch solche erlebt (von mir und Kaya!), und freue mich auf mehrere davon!
    Wo in Neuseeland seid ihr? Ich habe 'Familie' (sozusagen) in der Naehe von Auckland, auf Waiheke Island. =)
    Vielen Dank fuer deine Interesse, und deine Komplimente (is that a word?!)...freut mich so sehr. Es ist spaet..ich muss wirklich ins Bett!

    Schreib mal wieder! Danke!


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!